LINGUIST List 7.1183

Sat Aug 24 1996

Disc: Multilinguality, Grammaticalization

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Stavros Macrakis, Multilinguality
  2. David Pesetsky, Re: 7.1170, Disc: Grammaticalization

Message 1: Multilinguality

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 1996 17:21:22 EDT
From: Stavros Macrakis <>
Subject: Multilinguality

In 7.1160, Waruno Mahdi <> says that
some rather superficial features (notably pronunciation) can convince
native speakers that you "speak their language" for a few minutes.
Quite true, especially for less well-known languages! If you can say
"A pleasure to meet you" with a competent accent in, say, Slovenian or
Laz/Lazuri, you risk a reply you cannot understand.

But it is sometimes better to speak a non-standard (but widely
recognized) dialect so that your errors can be attributed to dialectal
difference. I once ran into an American in London who had mastered a
Yorkshire accent well enough to fool Londoners, but not those from

This relates to an earlier comment in 7.1074: Antonio Mariscal
<> reports that "Byron had to admit
that Mezzofanti could speak every one of those languages better than
most natives". Now that is a peculiar remark if we take native
competence as the highest standard. What could it mean? In my
experience, being told that one speaks "better than a native" means
speaking a more formal, high-class version of the language, or obeying
the rules of formal grammars. In Mezzofanti's context, that might
well have meant the language of Bible translations, or using Latinate
vocabulary, syntax, and phraseology (calques), or using elaborate (but
regular and easy-to-learn) constructions rather than simple (but
idiomatic) ones.

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Message 2: Re: 7.1170, Disc: Grammaticalization

Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 08:32:44 EDT
From: David Pesetsky <pesetskMIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: 7.1170, Disc: Grammaticalization
Oesten Dahl wrote:

> What some of us have claimed is that the
> things that happen in grammaticalization do so in an orderly fashion which
> not only predicts what changes can occur but also puts constraints on what
> synchronic grammatical systems are found. The fascination of
> grammaticalization studies is precisely that it opens up a way of explaini=
> grammatical phenomena that has largely been neglected in post-Saussurean
> linguistics. The difficulty in fitting this way of thinking into the
> Chomskyan paradigm may explain why some people react negatively to it.

This remark puzzles me. Putting aside Fritz Newmeyer's questions, let's
suppose that these studies show what they claim to show. In what way are
the results incompatible with "the Chomskyan paradigm"?

-David Pesetsky
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